Saltwater Catch Data. Answer this question quickly. What do you think is number one on the list of recreationally harvested fish in North Carolina? Would you believe dolphin? The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) today released its 2012 harvest data for both commercial and recreational fishermen. If you thought the dolphin question was surprising, just wait to find out the whole story. Some of its good and some of its bad. Most of it you’ll probably find to be surprising!
Saltwater Catch Data: Record High Trout and Drum Catches
The just released NCDMF data for recreational fishermen show record catch and release of speckled trout and red drum. Speckled trout landings increased by 131 percent in 2012 over 2011 landings. Recreational release of red drum reached 1.5 million in 2012. That is 3 times higher than at any other time.
The NC Division of Marine Fisheries says this supports the data from their monitoring programs and that they, “have noted record numbers of juvenile red drum over the past several years. Many of the released fish will grow into the slot size limit this year, which allow them to be harvested”.
These findings about speckled trout and red drum come at an interesting time. The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) attempted to make these fish and striped bass exclusive to their user group. Twice in three years the CCA has help create and perpetuate bills that would give trout, drum and stripers Gamefish Status. This status would have banned the commercial take thus banning the consumer any opportunity to buy this seafood at the market or eat them in a restaurant.
Although the recreational sector already catch up to 75 percent of the trout, drum and stripers these latest findings show that the recreational catch and interaction is still on the increase.
Now let’s get back to the top fish recreational fishermen landed in 2012. As mentioned earlier dolphin is the number one with 327,042 of them brought to the docks. In weight that comes to 2.6 million pounds of delicious Mahi-Mahi. The bad news is that this almost a 28 percent decrease from the year before.
Coming in second place as the most landed by the recreational sector is yellowfin tuna with 57,085 tunas caught with an aggregate weight of 1.6 million pounds.
In the number three position was bluefish at 888,852 fish weighing a total of 1 million pounds. Wahoo was number four with their numbers at 20,877 weighing in at 854,361 pounds. Last but certainly not least coming in at number 5 is speckled trout. Recreational fishermen landed 500,518 speckled trout with a total weight at 817,445 pounds. The number of trout landed in 2012 is 131 percent greater than in 2011.
Recreational fishermen landed 8.1 million fish but released over twice as many. According to NCDMF a whopping 18.5 million fish were caught and released from the recreational sector. Landings decreased by 9 percent while releases increased by almost 17 percent.
There is more good news for recreational fishermen. The new data show that anglers were able to go out fishing more often in 2012. They went out on 5.3 million fishing trips an almost 12 percent increase over the year before. The Division reports that in 2008 a total of 7 million fishing trips were taken. In their press release NCDMF directly attribute the down turn to the economy.
Surprisingly there were only 140,648 for hire, or charter trips taken in 2012. That number seems very low. But NCDMF data shows that the biggest year for charters was in 1996 when 300,000 trips were taken. I find it very interesting (another way of saying stunned) that less than 3 percent of all fishing trips are by charter boat and guide service.
The commercial fishing families of North Carolina over-all had a bad year in 2012. Finfish landings were just less than 23 million pounds which is a 24 percent decrease over last year. When the Division compares 2012 landings to 5 year averages then the landing represent a 22 percent decrease. NCDMF blames not only the economy for the decline.
“High fuel prices, stricter federal regulations and the shoaling of Oregon Inlet likely impacted finfish landings,” reports the Division.
Number One Commercial Fish Isn’t a Fish
Blue crabs continue to be the number one seafood harvested by North Carolina commercial fishermen. They brought in just under 27 million pounds with a dockside value (whole sale price paid to the fishermen) of almost $23 million.
According to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, “2012 blue crab landings were down nearly 11 percent from 2011, continuing a downward trend in landings since the late 1990s. Environmental influences, market conditions and infrastructure loss due to hurricanes have all significantly impacted the crab fishery”.
Top Five Commercially Landed Fish
Rounding off the top catches for the commercial fishing families was shrimp at number two with 6.1 million pounds landed with whole sale value at $13.3 million. Croaker came in at number three with just over 3 million pounds with a wholesale value of $2.1 million. Spiny dogfish (The fish used in fish n’ chips) came in as the fourth most landed fish at 2.7 pounds at $640,820. Last coming in at number 5 was striped mullet. There was almost 2 million pounds of them landed at a wholesale value of $1 million. Striped mullet landings have been trending upwards over recent years. The 2012 landings saw a 14 percent increase over 2011 landings.
One more significant fisheries note. Oyster landings greatly decreased. North Carolina saw a 45 percent decrease in oyster landings over last year and a 34 percent decrease when compared to 5 years averages.
Cause and Effect
There are a lot of reasons why we experience a decrease in landings. As the Division points out sometimes it is due to the economy and the high cost to harvest. Federal and regional regulations can play a part in it. Sometimes it is due to environmental reasons such as hard freezes, cold stun events or the effects of hurricanes and flooding. Never be overly concerned with the landing results of a single year. North Carolina is extremely fortunate to have a highly qualified Division of Marine Fisheries tasked with the management, supervision and enforcement of the North Carolina fisheries. The best thing we the citizens of the state could do is to support NCDMF and to free them up to do their job.
The Division does a super job of counting fish and fishermen but more economic data would be very helpful. Several times during their most recent release on 2012 landings they mention the effects of the economy. It sure would be nice to know things like the economic impact of coastal and non-coastal seafood restaurants and seafood markets as well as events like the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and the North Carolina Seafood Festival. The dock side or wholesale value of commercially landed fish is great (By the way recreational dockside value of fish is zero) but it sure would be nice to see data on how the price of fish explodes as it journey’s from dock to table.
Come be part of the fishery here in North Carolina. Contact Margaret Hitchcock about relocating to the Crystal Coast, Carteret County and the surrounding area. Margaret is an experienced and proven Realtor and knows the dynamics of the area. Whether you are interested in a home, condo, land or lot contact Margaret Hitchcock of Hitchcock Realty today at (252) 269-2893.
Saltwater Catch Data: Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
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